As you might know by now, Leiden has a special place in our hearts here at DutchReview. Given it’s where our office is based, it should be of no surprise that we frequently get asked, “where should we go out for dinner in Leiden?” Well, if you’re wondering the same thing then lucky you — we like dining in Leiden and like writing about it.
|Coronavirus note: While the Netherlands is in lockdown, this list is for dreaming, drooling, and takeout purposes only. But once the country is back open, support these local gems like never before!|
Let’s kick off this list with the best place in Leiden to eat meat (don’t worry, we got some excellent veggie options coming as well).
But not just any meat…
#1 Just Meet
This one was on my Leiden list for a long time but it was always packed when I tried to walk in on a Saturday or Sunday. I was relieved when I finally secured a reservation at this deluxe meat-eating establishment on the Breestraat.
Before we get to the meaty part, it is important to mention that Just Meat is located in an absolutely fabulous building. There are two large dining rooms, both equally atmospheric and divided by a hallway with a large piano in it. It is truly one of the best classic staircases you’re going to encounter in Leiden.
Besides all the good beers and wines, they make a special effort with their gin and tonics — which I’m sure everybody can relate to. We started this dinner with a serving platter called ‘Plateau Just Meet’, and that was awesome from the get-go, and also had some non-meaty stuff on it:
But now, let’s go on a truly meaty adventure. See, for the real meaty deal, you need to go for one of the steaks on the menu that you can eat together. After selecting your meat of choice (ask the waiter for tips!) they’ll get your meat from their ‘curing cabinet’:
They then take it to the open kitchen to cook it just right. You can add some sides to it if you feel like it (truffle risotto!).
Adding to the pre-fun is that you can select your own knife. They’re all special and with a story (we totally talked about these knives for 10 minutes — sorry, waitress, for keeping you so long!)
After all this pre-fun, you can watch the cooks prepping a beautiful plate of meat:
And there it is, one of the best pieces of meat I’ve ever tasted in the Netherlands. Kind of mouthwatering now when I’m writing about it.
What can we say? Sure, it’s pricey, especially that big piece of steak (which is what you’ll really want, trust me) but you get something truly special as well. So if you’ve got something to celebrate, meat up with your mates at Just Meet (ok, I’ll stop now, no more puns).
Where: Breestraat 18
#2 Aan de Rijn
If this one sounds familiar, then it’s because you’ve been checking out our Insta-stories on Saturdays. Having a coffee or beer at the beautifully located Aan de Rijn while visiting the Saturday street market of Leiden is one of my favourite things to do. It makes shooting an Insta-story oh so natural!
So if you’re vying for the classic canal views of Leiden, this is the place to b. But since Aan de Rijn redecorated their interior a few months ago it’s also perfectly nice to sit inside when it’s raining in the Netherlands.
As you can see the place is certified fresh. With some funky tunes and the quality service by Roos and David and their crew, you’re in for a fun time eating out in Leiden.
Shared dining is the thing here, and they mean it. The idea is that you select a couple of small dishes for a round, which are beautifully placed on a wooden board. Solid concept and you can have whatever you want —there are no bad choices. There are some awesome choices though, as I can recommend the shrimp croquettes (they’ve got a nice citron twist) and the poke-bowl.
And whatever you do, make sure to end this dinner in Leiden with their cheesecake — I’m in love with that one.
A great terrace, lovely indoors and shared dining concept makes sure that ‘Aan de Rijn’ is a good choice for everybody and any time — can’t go wrong with that.
Where: Nieuwe Rijn 37
#3 Bar Lokaal
Not far from Aan de Rijn is another crowd favourite in Leiden (not that anything is far away in Leiden, but this one is literally around the corner). This one specialises in bringing you some awesome veggie deluxe dishes, but no need to worry, meat-lovers; they’ve got some top-notch cuts of meat as well.
First of all, Bar Lokaal is stunningly located at one of the most beautiful squares in Leiden — the ‘Hooglandse Kerkplein’. After having a few glasses of wine you can almost taste that romanticized 16th/17th century. And spoiler: you have to drink wine there — not only do they know which wine to pair with which dish, they also serve wines from our favourite wine company Baltazar. We’re as biased as it can be with them, so double points for that Bar Lokaal!
Just like many other spots, Bar Lokaal also does shared dining (I always wanna taste from someone else’s plate). The portions (and prices) are a bit larger than the previous entry of Aan de Rijn, so you should be satisfied if you order between four and six dishes.
There’s meat on the menu. We had some smoked rib-eye that we devoured. But where Bar Lokaal really shines is in their offerings of vegetable dishes, so if you’re not in a meaty mood then you’re right where you should be at Bar Lokaal. Especially their cauliflower dish is making a name for itself. Here’s a picture of it — tasted just as spectacular.
Another pro-tip is their steak tartare, that one was just amazing — so even if you’re going there for just a few drinks in the evening (which loads of people do) then you might just wanna treat yourself to these quality dishes.
Other tips? Well, make a reservation if you want to be sure to have a table there — this place is packed most of the time. Luckily, they do breakfast and lunch as well.
Where: Hartesteeg 13
#4 Pizzabakkers in Leiden
Fancy a pizza? While having a view of the prettiest house in Leiden? And you want quality stuff and to not pay a hefty price? Well then, you’re in luck. Because there’s a Pizzabakkers in Leiden too!
De Pizzabakkers is an and up-and-coming franchise. A few of them are popping up throughout the country, all of them run by spirited owners who put their heart, salami and soul in it. Their pizzas are always more than okay and thanks to the influx of Italians in the Netherlands, you’ll often find a young Italian lad doing his magic in the kitchen. Not at any point do you feel or taste anything that makes it a generic franchise.
Since living in Italy for a while I’m absolutely spoiled when it comes to espresso and pizzas. So I can happily report that the Pizzabakkers in Leiden also passes my totally non-scientific pizza-eating-trial.
What else is there to tell? Well, prices are on the light-side, which is good if you wanna swoop inside for a quick pizza. Good to know since the previous entries were quality stuff but also a bit on the pricey side. I had the pizza of the month two times, both were quality pizzas with premium toppings and were enough to completely satisfy my appetite. And added bonus of the Pizzabakkers in Leiden was the fact that you can have a seat at their terrace and enjoy views of the prettiest house in Leiden:
Where: Herenstraat 1
Next up, even better views of Leiden!
#5 The Roof at PLNT
Wait a minute, isn’t the DutchReview office at PLNT? It sure is! And you might have spotted the rooftop in our Insta-stories and posts.
The roof at PLNT is a unique place in the heart of the city and in the middle of the ‘Singelpark’ — a great place for students, startups, entrepreneurs, organisations and local residents to congregate (If you’re wondering what the Singelpark is, it’s a recently completed park that runs along the whole of the outer canals of Leiden and it’s inspired by the High Line in NY, needless to say, it is epic.). Dutch innovation is also put to test on the roof. For example, plans are in the works to make the roof retain rainwater and for plants to generate electricity.
It is covered with beautiful flowers and greenery and boasts stunning views over Leiden and yes, even a chicken coop! Ruben and Jerry of the ‘Binnentuin’ also treat visitors to their delicious in-house-made food and drinks.
You might have just thought that it was only open for us lucky few and while this is true sometimes, the Rooftop is also opening up to the public more and more. There are events coming up regularly, and whenever there’s good weather (aka no rain) — then the rooftop is opened from two o’clock in the afternoon.
Is the weather typically Dutch? Well, you’re always welcome to stop by for coffee, have lunch or do some work from the ‘The Binnentuin‘ — the ultra-hip workplace/cafe of PLNT.
Both the roof and the indoor binnentuin provide plenty of healthy meal options and the prices are very economical (and an added bonus is that you might just run into us!)
Where: Langegracht 70
Eating out in Leiden: Honourable mentions
#1 City Hall
If you’ve ever visited Leiden then you’ll know City Hall — a beautiful building that looms over the old town. Tucked within City Hall, on the other side of the main street, is the Italian bistro bar. It has a rather extensive menu (and is on the pricier side) but it is delicious. The best dish we tried was the tortellini con pere e pecorino.
Where: Stadhuisplein 3
Did you know that Leiden has never even had a proper Latin, Mexican or taco place? That’s loco, right? Well, Tabú has solved all of this with its canal views, colourful furniture and spicy and zesty food. Highlights were the tostada salmone and the quesadilla.
It has to be mentioned that every Monday and Wednesday from 5 to 7 PM they host a “cocktail madness” when two of their daily special cocktails go for 12 euros.
Where: Rembrandtstraat 27
#3 Lot en de Walvis
It’s a staple of the Leiden dinner and drinking scene and one of my favourites whenever the weather permits. One of its most appealing aspects is the awesome location, gorgeous views of the marina and of course, the luscious terrace.
Where: Haven 1 2312 MG Leiden
So there you have it! Five delectable and varied places to eat in the wonderful city of Leiden! Have you been to any of these restaurants yet? What did you order? Let us know in the comments below! And feel free to tell us if you think we have missed any gems!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in July 2019 and was fully updated in January 2021 for your reading pleasure.
Feature Image: DutchReview/Supplied